NPHM Mourns the Untimely Loss of P.J. Paparelli

The National Public Housing Museum lost a friend and collaborator when P.J. Paparelli died in a car crash in Scotland on May 21, 2015. He was the creative visionary, co-playwright, and director of “The Project(s)” – an acclaimed documentary play about public housing currently running at Chicago’s The American Theatre Company until June. 

Paparelli approached the NPHM in 2009 for help, and board members Roberta Feldman, Annie R. Stubenfield, and Brad Hunt embraced his desire to tell the story of public housing on the stage. They connected him with public housing residents, and, over several years, Paparelli and his team collected little-known human stories that spanned from positive love to painful tragedy.

The play – with its skillful presentation of public housing’s complexity and emotions – is an extraordinary piece of theater. It demonstrates Paparelli’s ability to listen, empathize, probe, and challenge, all while being honest with his material. He cared deeply about residents and had plans to return from his vacation in Scotland in time to see the play performed at Wentworth Gardens, an event that took place on May 31 with great emotion from both the actors and audience.

“The Project(s)” received glowing reviews, and his death led to heart-wrenching tributes to an exceptional career. P.J. hoped to take his documentary theater method to other cities and countries, and he had already developed relationships with public housing residents in Glasgow. He was living the spirit of the National Public Housing Museum, which seeks to tell the human experience in public housing for social justice ends.

We will greatly miss P.J.’s charm, laugh, integrity, and passion for telling the stories of public housing.
– The NPHM Family 

Plans for a memorial service organized by the American Theater Company are forthcoming.